On a whim…

Life without whimsy is not much of a life at all; without it, a walk in the dark is no laughing matter.

Character Under Construction

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Understanding Cub Scouting is more than mastering jargon; To understand Cub Scouting is to understand its goal.

The goal of Cub Scouting is character development. Does that seem vague to you? How about this, “Character can be defined as the collection of core values by an individual that leads to moral commitment and action.” As a leader of young boys we are each challenged to help our scouts identify, embrace, and experience core values. Each meeting, activity, or challenge should be measured against the core values of scouting. What are the values?

A boy's life

As a Boy Scout many of us learned that a scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Even today I can recite the Scout Law. More importantly, I find myself looking into the mirror and asking whether what I propose to do is consistent with these qualities of character.

For Cub Scouts the points of the Scout Law are reworded and described as the Twelve Core Values but their meaning is the same.

Citizenship, Compassion, Courage, Faith, Health and Fitness, Honesty, Perseverance, Positive Attitude, Resourcefulness, Respect, and Responsibility. If leading young boys to adopt these core values as their own is our goal, then how do we do that?

The oft repeated dictum, “Scouting is a game with a purpose”, serves as a key to understanding the “how” of character development. Our meetings, awards, games, even silly skits must serve a greater purpose. Everything we do should move us closer to our goal. That’s why it is not enough to ensure the boys have fun;  It is up to us to infuse the fun with purpose. What does it look like when we are working toward our goal?

Imagine a time when boys will perform a skit at a pack meeting. We approach them with this challenge by providing some examples and ask them to choose. If you can think back to similar circumstances in your son’s den you can probably hear the racket they make as some jump up and down volunteering to be “the star” of the skit. Perhaps a couple of others are hanging back hoping to be anything but “the star”. This is where the factor of age plays heavily into the “how” of character development. We could simply appoint each boy to a role. Or, if the boys are older, we could challenge them to decide among themselves.  Imagine this is a younger group. Instead of simply assigning roles  you might engage the boys in a discussion.  Ask yourself, which of the core values has greatest relevance here? Is it Compassion? What about Citizenship? Perhaps the real question is what is your role as a leader?

As a leader you are the pivotal figure in the Cub Scout method. Each den has its own chemistry and needs. Preparation for the meeting is for more than finding a fun activity. It is all about understanding your scouts and their needs. Of course the first thing that comes into my mind is how on earth can I prepare?

The answer is that we are all leaders in the life of our Cub Scouts. Perhaps you are a den leader, perhaps you are an unsung parent who shows up faithfully week after week. It doesn’t matter, we are all leaders. What each of us needs is a pattern, a model to follow when preparing for or participating in a den meeting. So, what is that model?

It is called the “Character Connection”. Throughout each scout’s handbook are activities that include requirements identified as such. The task of the leader is to help a scout to “Know, Commit, Do”.  It is this pattern that can and should permeate all of out planning. Actually, its pretty cool that we, as leaders, can learn the methods of character development from their handbook.  What is the practical meaning and application of these terms?

To know means to possess knowledge. “What does it mean to tell the truth? What is an example of this? Can you think of someone who is famous for telling the truth?” Whether we are speaking of honesty, a positive attitude, or respect the scout needs to have knowledge of what “it” is.

To commit is to be motivated. Sometimes our motivation is shallow. It is not well rooted and subject to flee. Imagine a young person being frightened of the consequences for an action they took. Would he find it easier (less frightening) to deny responsibility? “I didn’t do it.” must be wired into human DNA! Yet we aspire for our youth to grow, to develop character such that their motivation is strong and, when it counts most, we can count on their commitment to the core values.

No amount of knowledge or commitment is ever sufficient for the development of character. Unless we provide a laboratory where their character can be tested and strengthened they will find themselves inadequately prepared for “the real world”. To do, is the final member of the set of which the Character Connection is made. The young scout absolutely must have opportunities to succeed or fail and from both to derive real character.

If we relegate the Character Connection to a few agenda items along the path from Tiger to Wolf, etc. we miss the key ingredient. Today, as I consider the challenges facing our community, I am proud of adults whose character is self evident. The campaigns of this scouting year to restore dignity to Pelham’s Veterans Memorial Park and to rescue our High School’s accreditation from probation are evidence that our scouts are lead by parents whose character is strong. So, what is this note all about? It is about the need for all, not some, to step up. Show character, inspire character, and provide opportunities for character to grow.

Written by David Wilkerson

24 February 2012 at 4:41 pm

One Response

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  1. Nice article. You left out Cooperation in your CC list. Like how you presented eveything.

    Michael Menninger

    7 April 2012 at 2:47 pm

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